Responses of earthworms exposed to low-density polyethylene microplastic fragments

Tanusree Mondal, Eun Hea Jho, Sun Kyung Hwang, Yejin Hyeon, Chanhyuk Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The interest in the effect of microplastics (MPs) on the terrestrial environment has been increasing recently. Different species of earthworms have been used to study the effects of MPs on different aspects of earthworm health. However, there is still a need for more studies because different studies report different effects on earthworms depending on the properties (e.g., types, shapes, sizes) of MPs in the environment and exposure conditions (e.g., exposure period). This study used Eisenia fetida as a test earthworm species to investigate the effect of different concentrations of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) MPs (≤125 μm) in soil on the growth and reproduction of earthworms. The exposure of the earthworms to the different concentrations of LDPE MPs (0–3% w/w) for 14 d and 28 d neither caused death of the earthworms nor showed significant effects on the earthworm weights in this study. The number of cocoons produced by the exposed earthworms were also similar to that of the controls (i.e., no exposure to MPs). Some previous studies reported similar results to what have been observed in this study, while some studies reported different results. On the other hand, the number of ingested MPs by the earthworms increased with increasing MPs concentrations in soil, suggesting a potential for damage to digestive tract. Also, the earthworm skin surface was damaged after exposure to MPs. The ingested MPs and the skin surface damage suggest that there is a potential for adverse effects on the earthworm growth after a longer-term exposure. Overall, the results of this study show that the effects of MPs on earthworms need to be studied using various endpoints including growth, reproduction, ingestion, and skin damage and such effects can be different depending on the exposure conditions such as MPs concentration and exposure period.

Original languageEnglish
Article number138945
StatePublished - Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea [grant number NRF-2021R1A2C4001746 ].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Earthworm
  • Eisenia fetida
  • Low-density polyethylene
  • Microplastics
  • Toxicity


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